GIRL CHILD SOLDIERS - STOLEN CHILDHOODS FOR WAR & CONFLICT - TO BE REMEMBERED ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL
Direct Link to Film Segment:
Girl Child Soldiers - Film
Grace, Milly, Lucy . . . Child Soldiers
A film by Raymonde Provencher
very easy to create a killing machine. Just imagine. You’re seven years old and
taken away from your family . . . your parents are killed in front of you or
you’re forced to kill somebody. Through all that you’re beaten . . . then
you’re given a gun and you’re told, ‘This gun is your life.’” – Grace Akallo
When we usually speak about child soldiers, we rarely realize that many of them are girls. This little-known reality is underscored by the gripping personal accounts of Grace Akallo, Milly Auma, and Lucy Lanyero in Raymonde Provencher’s riveting, visually stunning film.
As adults seeking to rebuild their lives, they are three among thousands of young girls violently abducted from Ugandan villages by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force that trained kidnapped girls to fight and kill, often forcing them into child-bearing unions with their captors.
in their village and internationally, these survivors of a shattered past help
women ex-rebels find a voice in the world, acceptance at home, and forgiveness
from one another. And joining forces with victims of other conflicts, they are
active in a global campaign, envisioning a more just world where their own and
all children are no longer tools of war.
With Empowering Hands (EH), the association they founded to share their experiences and consolidate their efforts, they are working with children who have been affected by war to help them readjust once they return to their families. These women are determined: the victims’ voices must be heard and the war in Uganda must be stopped. The future of an entire sacrificed generation depends on it. Through moving first-hand accounts, CHILD SOLDIERS provides a gripping portrayal of a generation shattered by violence and war. Interspersing personal accounts with scenes from daily life, the documentary also uses a unique visual and sound treatment that conjures up the stifled echoes of a repressed past.
GIRL CHILD SOLDIER - POEM
Girl child soldier, hidden in the bush,
Why aren’t you with your mother today?
Little girl, so far from home,
Who put that gun in your hand?
Child soldiers, what do you understand
Of rebels’ causes and governments,
Broken cease-fires and armaments?
You only know you are a slave
For sex, or killing, or running away.
You are here to fight and die
For adults who never tell you why
As they steal your childhood away.
Your uniform should be some school’s;
You should sleep safe in a fresh, clean bed,
No horrors to torment or numb you,
As Mother’s song sings in your head.
Oh, girl children! May you find a home,
Where you remember how to play!
May you recall times before it all
Came undone on an evil day
When soldiers carried you away.
Carole R. Fontaine
GIRL CHILD SOLDIERS FACE NEW BATTLES IN CIVILIAN LIFE
12 February 2013 (IRIN) - Girl child soldiers are often thought of only as "sex slaves", a term that glosses over the complex roles many play within armed groups and in some national armies. This thinking contributes to their subsequent invisibility in the demobilization processes - in fact, girls are frequently the most challenging child soldiers to rehabilitate.
Girl Child Soldiers Face New Battles in Civilian Life
Photo: Rebecca Murray/IRIN - A
billboard campaign in
The broad categorization of girl soldiers as victims of sexual abuse obscures the fact that they are often highly valued militarily. While sexual abuse is believed to be widespread, girls’ vulnerability may vary, as attitudes toward women differ extensively across militias: In Colombia, the Marxist-leaning groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) treated female soldiers as equal to males, while right-wing paramilitary groups were known to embrace gender stereotypes.
Some have argued that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes (DDR) are ill-equipped to address the needs of girls. DDR was designed for adult male combatants, and over the years has incorporated female combatants, followed by boy soldiers and then girls.
A January 2013 World Bank briefing, Children in Emergency and Crisis Situations, says: “The use of girls [by armed forces] has been confirmed in Colombia, DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], East Timor, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda and West Africa. There are some 12,500 in DRC. However, girls are generally less visible and up to now have hardly benefited from demobilization and reintegration programmes for child soldiers.”
“No one knows what has happened after a DDR process to the large majority of girls associated with the armed groups,” the briefing said.
About 40 percent of the hundreds of thousands of child soldiers scattered across the world’s conflicts today are thought to be girls, but the numbers of girls enrolling in child soldier DDR programmes dwindles to five percent or less.
Girls often conceal their association with armed groups, Richard Clarke, director of Child Soldiers International, told IRIN. In traditional societies, enrolling in DDR could confirm a past that imperils their future: “In contexts of entrenched gender discrimination, and in situations where a girl’s ‘value’ is defined in terms of her purity and marriageability, the stigma attached to involvement in sexual activity, whether real or imputed, can result in exclusion and acute impoverishment,” he said.
Seeking gender equality
Then there is the uncomfortable reality that some conflicts may actually fast-track gender emancipation.
A 2012 report by Tone Bleie of the
"Female combatants developed a new sense of pride and dignity due to personal sacrifices, military courage, feats in the battlefield and prospects of promotion in the ranks"
“Female combatants developed a new sense of pride and dignity
due to personal sacrifices, military courage, feats in the battlefield and prospects
of promotion in the ranks,” the report says.
In the wake of Nepal’s 2006 ceasefire, during the cantonment of Maoists rebels and the subsequent reintegration process, girls and women were returned “to [the] very low position of women in traditional Nepalese feudal society,” Desmond Molloy, a panellist at the International Research Group on Reintegration at the CPS, told IRIN.
“Inter-cast marriage, and marriage in general, was encouraged in the cantonment. This is taboo in Nepali society and proved a major obstacle for reintegration of young girls back into society, especially when they have children, as many do. Further there is in [
Abdul Hameed Omar, programme manager for the UN Development Programme’s Interagency Rehabilitation Programme, told IRIN that acceptance of inter-cast marriages was particularly problematic. “Children have been denied birth certificates, and women have been denied their citizenship certificates. When the community knows that a woman has been part of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], these women sometimes face a stigma,” he said.
He said attitudes of male Maoist ex-combatants “vary widely” but that “many voiced opinions that were not in line with their previous [gender equality] beliefs during the conflict. Other male ex-combatants who played traditionally female roles during the conflict, i.e., cooking or childcare, no longer feel that these are appropriate roles for men outside of the PLA.”
Loss of power
Many Colombian girl soldiers, who fought as equals to their male counterparts, struggled with the double standards of civilian life.
“For some girls, belonging to an illegal armed group gives them a sense of power and control that they may not otherwise experience living in a relatively conservative, ‘machista’ [chauvinist] society,” said Overcoming Lost Childhoods, a Care International report about rehabilitating Colombian child soldiers.
By the end of
"Many Eritrean female ex-fighters experienced the years of war as preferable to the time that came afterwards"
But “many Eritrean female ex-fighters experienced the years of
war as preferable to the time that came afterwards… They had felt respected,
equal and empowered, but this was all lost after the war when women were pushed
towards traditional gender roles,” said the 2008 report Young Female Fighters in African Wars, Conflict and Its Consequences.
“Furthermore, female ex-fighters had a hard time getting married after the war as men usually claimed that these women had lost their femininity during the war. Many male ex-fighters also divorced their fighter wives for this reason and married civilian women,” the report said.
Girl soldiers’ versatility - they serve as combatants, spies, domestics, porters and “bush wives” - makes them highly valued among armed groups, which can also increase their difficulty reintegrating into civilian life.
Despite this, punishments for girls in northern Uganda, such as whipping or caning, were meted out for the smallest infractions, Linda Dale, director of Children/Youth as Peacebuilders (CAP), told IRIN.
“There is a strong tendency to force a kind of passivity on girls while at the same time they are expected to be combatants. This duality, as well as the effect of sexual violence, makes their rehabilitation more complicated, in my view,” she said.
The length of captivity also differed between the sexes; average internment period for girls in northern
Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative told IRIN that some girls can be seen as suffering from Stockholm syndrome, where captives develop a sympathetic association with their abusers.
“Girls were raped but then given to or chosen by a commander to be a ‘wife’. They are confused about their experiences, their guilt, their families’ expectations and religious beliefs. Additionally, many have children fathered by their captors. They are often rejected when they return home and viewed as non-marriageable material, damaged goods. With this kind of a homecoming, it creates confusion about your identity and your self-worth,” she said.
The assumptions and expectations of people operating DDR programmes may also affect girls’ reintegration.
Girl soldiers are often assumed to be “‘following along’, rather than girls who have been recruited and used, however informally, for military purposes… These assumptions have resulted in tens of thousands of girls being literally ‘invisible’ to DDR programmers, although the situation has improved somewhat in recent years,” said Clarke of Child Soldiers International.
"Boys with guns are easier to see and easier to fear"
Phillip Lancaster, former head of the DDR programme for the UN
Organization Mission in DRC, told IRIN, “Boys with guns are easier to see and
easier to fear.” DDR programmes might “ignore girls on the assumption that they
don't present the same threat.”
“My own experience is that girls are often invisible to DDR programmes that draw narrow categories around the notion of combat,” he said. “It's tricky to avoid getting caught up in categories as soon as one starts trying to define parameters of qualification for DDR programmes, and most of the decisions tend to have a somewhat arbitrary flavour simply because of the complexity of the subject matter.
“Most of the Congolese armed groups… draw on local community resources… The definition of girl child soldier in this setting could, in theory, extend over all the young females in a community who were supporting, supplying, informing or directly fighting with a relevant armed group.”